Monday, June 20, 2016

Robin Gianna & Research Your Way to a More Believable Book

Please welcome Robin Gianna back to the blog today!

Research is one of those things some writers love and others hate, but no matter which camp you belong to, most stories require at least a little information-gathering. The trick to research is to learn enough to enrich your story with believable detail, but not to spend so much time on it that you never get the book written, or even started!  

Give yourself a set period of time for the first sweep of research.

Avoiding the pitfall of researching in place of writing is fairly easy. Give yourself a set period of time, maybe a week, to get important research done.  Information about your setting, for example, or details about your characters’ professions, or the time period you’ve set the story in.  After a week, get going on the book.  When you’re writing and come to a place in the story where you realize you need to look something up, don’t stop to do it!  Instead, put a bracket there and keep going.  When you’ve hit your word count goal, put on your research hat again, search for the brackets in the manuscript, then spend time finding out all you need to know for those particular scenes.

The Internet

Where and how to research will depend a bit on what you’re writing, but the easiest place to get started in on the Internet. The Web is, of course, an amazing resource, making our lives as writers so much easier than it used to be.  What’s the average temperature in Italy in April?  What do Parisians usually eat for breakfast?  What do houses in Guatemala look like?  Ask most any question, and you can find an answer.  

The library

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still stop into the library when I’m starting a book. While there are plenty of images to be found online, I love having a book with photos of where I’m setting my story, filled with information that often is easier to look through than surfing dozens of Internet sites.  I’ve also had a few occasions where I was able to find a memoir or biography that enriched my story in ways I couldn’t have foreseen.

Talk to people who know

But nothing beats talking to people who are experts on whatever you’re researching.  For my medical romances, I talk to family, friends, and acquaintances in the medical field for ideas, details, and sometimes even dialogue so I’ll know how characters would really talk in a trauma situation, for example, or in the OR.  I hear you saying, “Well, that’s nice for you, Robin, because you know people in the field, but I don’t know any police officers to interview for my suspense story.”  In my experience, people enjoy talking about their work and what they do, or what it was like growing up in New York City, or their work travels to foreign countries.  I’ll bet you know people who’ve had interesting experiences that might trigger a story idea.  And if for your current WIP you need to learn about police procedure or what the life of an EMT is like or what an archaeologist does on a dig, a phone call will likely get you invited to the police station or firehouse or university to talk to one or more people about it all.  I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Research your way to new ideas

And that brings me to my last, but more important, point about research! Often, we don’t even know what we need to know for a story until we talk with people who have a deep understanding of what we want to learn, or study a book on the subject in-depth. A number of times, research has given me insight I would never have found on my own, and which gave me a new scene or even sent my story in a direction I hadn’t planned on. Sometimes that happens through Internet research, but it occurs more often when I’m talking one-to-one with someone. And those scenes and new directions always have enriched my stories for the better. For this reason, I believe writers should research more deeply than we think we need to, even if we only use 20% of what we learn in the actual book. Knowing a lot about a setting or time period or career gives us a deep understanding of the world our characters live in, which shines through when we’re writing from their perspective. It’s one of the things that brings a character to life for the reader, which is so important.

So remember—research isn’t just about those little details like average temperatures or popular foods in Venezuela or trendy places to live in San Francisco. Digging deep will truly inspire new ideas and directions that will make your characters more believable, your story stronger, and maybe even make it easier to writer.  And isn’t that always a great thing?

How about you?  How do you go about researching your stories?  Any interesting things that have happened to you along the way that brought a book to life?  I’d love to hear about it.


Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter

His Cinderella midwife 

Gabriella Cain prides herself on the exemplary service she provides to her celebrity moms-to-be. So she certainly doesn't appreciate Dr. Rafael Moreno suddenly taking over her department…even if he is royalty—and gorgeous! 

But distrust soon turns to secrets shared as irresistible Rafe proves dangerously easy to fall for. With a painful past behind her, can Gabriella dare hope for a fairy-tale ending with her prince?

Buy Links:

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One Kindle Copy Giveaway of The Prince and the Midwife to one commenter!       

Enter this Goodreads Giveaway to win a signed copy of The Prince and the Midwife.

Thanks Robin!
It sure is easy to disappear into a research cave - love the idea of setting a timeline to avoid staying there too long.

Anyone have interesting research stories? I know I've found out more about branding cattle than I ever thought I'd know! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Humanity Should

Humanity should = Compassion

Humanity should = Love

Humanity should = Support

Humanity should = Respect

Humanity should = Freedom

Humanity should = Hope

In the midst of yet more sadness and heartbreak in the world,
it's important to look for and celebrate the moments of kindness and hope.

Every classroom in our school boasts a Positive Space poster. We believe in the message.

We have a bathroom for anyone who isn't comfortable using the group bathrooms.

We have books throughout the school representing all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. We read them together. We discuss how we can make the lives of others better.

Posters quoting powerful messages from Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, MLK Jr., Gandhi, and so many more decorate our classrooms and hallways and spark questions and discussions.

Young voices question the hate they hear about in the news.

Young hearts are devastated to hear how humans sometimes treat each other.

Young people build connections and relationships and friendships with other young people who look/think/act/believe/love/feel/suffer/celebrate/wonder differently.

It's not everything.

But, it's a start.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Misha Gericke & Writing Advice

Please welcome my good blog buddy Misha Gericke to the blog today!
About writing advice…

I like sharing writing advice, especially with new writers who are still finding their way. But when I know the writer asking for advice is very new, the best thing I (and any other experienced writer) can do for them is not to tell them how to write. 

Yes, I know. It’s so very tempting to want to make things easier for the new kid. I mean, we’re all a nice bunch of people. And we all remember (and still experience) the pain of having to find our way through our writing. 

But here’s the thing. “How do I write?” has about a million very complicated answers—all of which contradicting others in at least one way. The reason is simple. If a new writer asks “How do I write?” your answer will invariably be about how you write. 

So the safest answer to “How do I write?” would be: “I haven’t the foggiest.” 

As such, I have taken to advising new writers along the following lines: 

Find out what works for you. If plotting bores you, don’t plot. If pantsing gets you stuck and you hate that feeling, don’t pants. If you find yourself feeling trapped because you just want to get to the scene that inspired you, don’t write the story chronologically. If you feel writing chronologically helps you stay focused, then do it. If you feel like you keep killing your story because you’re editing too much too soon, find a way to prevent yourself from editing until the draft is done. Like… Whatever, man. 

There is no right or wrong way to write a book. The right way for each writer is whatever way that gets the project done. If that means that writer needs to stand on their head as they write, then so be it. 

But I think it’s absolutely wrong of writers (no matter how well-meaning they are) to act as if their way is the only one to succeed. So let’s see about stopping that trend, shall we? 

What’s the weirdest part to your writing method? (Mine is to write all rough drafts by pen.) 

About the Book

First, do no harm.” Blake Ryan swore that oath to become a doctor. Ironic, given that he spent most of his thousand year life sucking souls out of other immortals.

Things are different now. Using regular shots of morphine to keep his inner monster at bay, Ryan has led a quiet life since the Second World War. His thrills now come from saving lives, not taking them.

Until a plane crash brings Aleria into his hospital. Her life is vibrant. Crack to predators like him. She’s the exact sort of person they would hunt, and thanks to a severe case of amnesia, she’s all but defenseless.

Leaving Aleria vulnerable isn’t an option, but protecting her means unleashing his own inner monster. Which is a problem, because his inner monster wants her dead most of all.

About the Author

Misha Gerrick lives near Cape Town, South Africa, and can usually be found staring at her surroundings while figuring out her next book.

If you’d like to see what Misha’s up to at the moment, you can find her on these social networks:


This had to be what dying felt like. Floating outside my body, waiting for that final link to my life to be severed, only vaguely aware of indescribable pain. More screams than I could count rose up around me. Hundreds of footsteps beat against tiles. I couldn’t open my eyes if I wanted to. Not when it was easier to listen and wait. People shouted for a doctor or an IV, or a thousand other things that made no sense. I listened to all the chaos, trying to untangle it in my thoughts.

Soon, I could go. The peace around me was so relaxing, completely out of place in the clamor I heard. I wanted it. To rest forever in that peace. Why not? There was a very good reason, but I couldn’t call it to mind.

A numb buzz shot through my body and shattered my serenity.

It happened again. Only this time was more of a sharp pulse. The third time jolted like lightning. The fourth…Hell. Suddenly, the screams were coming from me. My heart’s relentless thundering added to my torment.



My chest burned like fire. It hurt to breathe. Cold air drove down my throat and into my lungs, amplifying the inferno in my chest. My skin felt scorched. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t right.

I had to see. I had to understand why pain dominated my existence like this. My eyes were fused shut. My breaths grew shallow, trying
to draw air when there was none. I tried to clench my teeth. I bit hard plastic. A pipe. Cold air suddenly forced back into my lungs, out of time with my own breathing. This was wrong. It wasn’t safe. I had to see. The best I got was a little fluttering of my lashes.

A high-pitched beep shot through my head. It repeated again and again. I wanted to reach over and slam my fist into its source. My arm wouldn’t lift. Something kept it trapped. A scream rose up from the depths of my soul, but the pipe jammed inside my throat stifled the sound. I only managed a whimper, trying my best not to gag. More air blasted into my lungs against my will. What was going on? I was trapped in my own body, but why?

I needed to move. I had to move. Now. Before… Even… Even though… Panic gripped me. The beeps increased at a frenetic pace. I needed to move. To be gone. Didn’t matter where. Just not here. Not defenseless. Not trapped.

The air sucked out of my lungs. I gasped, choking on nothing, strangled by invisible fingers. I tried to convulse my body. To twist myself free of what’s holding me.


The air rushed back in a cold flood. Seconds later it left, only to return in the same amount of time.

There was a rhythm to the air. In… out... in… out… The breaths were slow—sleep-like. I concentrated on this rhythm, striving to clear my head. If I wanted out, I needed to think. Calmly. Clearly. Eventually, those irritating beeps slowed. I tried to focus past the sound.

Voices buzzed about me, adding to my need to see, to do something to protect myself. No one seemed to pay attention to me. Good. I could use that to my advantage. 

I centered my every thought on moving my little finger. It finally jerked, but collided against something solid. So the thing trapping my arm was physical and too heavy for me to lift. It was better to be trapped than paralyzed. With luck I could escape my restraints. I tried my other hand, but it was cemented stuck as well. Right leg. Left leg. Damn it! Both trapped. I had to move!


No, I needed to stay calm. I tried to make larger movements, biting the pipe in my mouth against the urge to scream in pain. There was no wiggle room.

Fearing that I might be blindfolded, I focused on blinking. It worked. My eyes opened and the blur faded, revealing ceiling tiles. Why would there be tiles? Where was the canvas of hospital tents? The distant sounds of bombs dropping? The power of their explosions rushing through my blood?

No. That wasn’t right. I wasn’t there.

Where was I, then?

Can't wait Misha!!!

What about you? What's your favourite (or least favourite) piece of writing advice?
I always roll my eyes when I read the "Thou Must" lists. I've never followed a regular pattern in anything else in life, why should writing be any different?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rachael Thomas & Backstory

Please welcome Rachael Thomas back to the blog today!
Digging Deep Into Your Characters Backstory.

One of the first things to ask yourself when creating your characters is what’s their backstory? What happened to them before they arrived on your page? You need to know all there is to know about them in as much detail as you can. Why? Your character’s past will have shaped the person they are now as you begin to write. It will determine how they react to situation that will arise within your story and also the person they will be as you write the final chapter.

Each and every one of us will have experienced situations through our lives which have changed who we are and it needs to be the same for your characters. These can be good or bad experiences, but both will have an effect on your character.

Maybe your character is afraid of heights, the dark or thunder storms. What you need to know as the writer and creator of that character is, why? You need to delve deep into their past and find out everything. Once you are armed with this information you know exactly how your character will react when confronted with going to the top of one of the city’s tallest buildings, or being lost in the woods on a dark night when not even the moon is shining. By knowing every little detail about that past experience your character will react in a way that is real and convincing to the reader. They will come alive on the page.

As your character progresses through your story he or she will come up against things which challenge them. They will face fears which will have held them back and this in turn will change them, allowing them to grow and change as they progress through the story, so that by the end they have faced and conquered fears and become a stronger, better person.

It will be the same with good events in their lives. Your character may associate certain places with good memories or people they’ve loved or shared happy times with. Events in your story which threaten such memories, people or places they associate with happy times, it will give your character room to grow and show the reader who they are now.

So, you have your hero and heroine, you’ve named them, but how do you find out all this information to create their backstory?

For me it is a gradual process and one I do in the planning stage of my books. I have sheets with questions that are designed to create more questions and yet more questions. Gradually their past begins to show itself. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but in order to create real and believable characters you must know who they were before they appeared on your page.

However, it is important to remember the backstory isn’t the main story. It mustn’t be allowed to overpower the story you want to write. Neither must it be dumped on the reader in big doses. It should be weaved into the main story, giving the reader tantalising insights into what made the characters they are now.

Happy Writing!
Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web:
Website         Blog         Facebook           Twitter          Goodreads

The Sheikh’s Last Mistress Promoted to Princess! 

Destiny Richards knows she is playing with fire when she accepts charismatic Sheikh Zafir Al Asmari's job offer, but it seems like a fair price to pay to start her life over again. Until the temperature reaches the boiling point and Destiny finds herself spending one out-of-this-world night with the sheikh!  When powerful Zafir seduces English rose Destiny, he never anticipates she'll hold the title of his Last Mistress. But their scorching affair has shocking repercussions. Now, before their nine months are up, Zafir must convince Destiny to make their arrangement more permanent!

Read Reader Reviews 

Buy Links:
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     M&B Aust     Harlequin US     B&N

 Goodreads Giveaway:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Sheikh's Last Mistress by Rachael Thomas

The Sheikh's Last Mistress

by Rachael Thomas

Giveaway ends May 31, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thanks Rachael!
The first novel I wrote had a prologue AND at least twenty pages of backstory before the story finally started!! Boy, I've learned a lot since then!

How about you? Any more hints for backstory? Any horror stories like mine?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ella Carey and Aspiring to be Better

Please welcome Ella Carey back to the blog today!
When you have the urge to write…

What a wonderful blog you have here Jemi! Thank you for having me here today. (Thanks so much, Ella!! ~ Jemi)

I think that Musings of an Aspiring Writer is a splendid title. Because every writer is always aspiring to do better- we aspire all the time. What I want to share with you today, if I may, are some of the best tips I was given before I was published.

Before I was published, I worked every day- I wrote. I kept writing novels, so I just pretended I was like any other author and got on with it- published or not. I’m doing exactly the same job now I’m published as I was before, albeit with wonderful support and editors- it’s still me and my imagination for most of the time! 

So-  here goes:

  1. Set up a really strong writing routine. And stick to it. You need to be disciplined in this game. Before you are published. By the time you are accepted for publication, you are professional, can meet deadlines and will always be on time with your revisions. So, set up a timetable, don’t wait for the muse to strike, just write!
  2. One piece of advice that I am just so glad I followed is do not send out submissions to publishers until you know your work is ready. Trash the manuscripts you are not sure of, and wait to submit until you just know you have the right piece of work.
  3. Do sign up for online courses- make sure they are reputable before you pay, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need to learn. Writing is a craft and you will gain enormously from studying it. You’ll always pick up something from writing courses. Just take what resonates with you, and keep writing and developing your voice.
  4. Do join a professional organisation, your local writer’s center, or such. Do meet other authors and talk to them. There is something incredibly special about the bonds you will make with real writer friends. It is perhaps they alone who will understand how hard this career is, and how success comes in one big sugar lump- you get published! You just have to keep going in the meantime, there aren’t really incremental steps, and those writer friends will make all the difference.
  5. Ignore the voice that tells you that you’ll never get there, that getting published is like winning the lottery, all of that jazz. Because, you know what- someone has to get there, and that someone may as well be you! Ignore the people who tell you that it’s too hard as well. Just smile politely and continue to write! 
  6. You need the most enormous amount of self belief. You just have to believe in what you write. Stay focussed, like you would in any other job and do your apprenticeship.
  7. And here’s the final thing. No matter how much talent you have, no matter how hard you work, it takes the average writer several years to get a publishing contract, several years of hard work, of producing a major work every year, until you finally get there.

So- do not give up!!
Ella Carey is a writer and Francophile who claims Paris as her second home. She has been studying French since the age of five, and she has degrees in music and English. Her debut novel, The Paris Time Capsule, has captured global attention and her second novel, The House By The Lake, will be released on March 29th, 2016. She lives with her two children and a pair of Italian greyhounds in Hobart.

Ella Carey on the web:

Facebook        Twitter        Author Page    Website

The House by the Lake

Anna is content with her well-ordered life in San Francisco. But her world is turned upside down when her beloved grandfather, Max, reveals a startling secret: Anna is part of an aristocratic family who lost everything during World War II. What’s more, Max was forced to leave behind a precious item over seventy years ago in their estate in old Prussia. It’s now his ardent wish that Anna retrieve it.
Anna burns with questions as she heads for Germany: What memento could be so important to her grandfather? And why did he keep their history hidden? As she searches for answers, she finds herself drawn to Wil, a man who may hold the key to unlock the mystery. Together they discover that her family’s secrets are linked with an abandoned apartment in Paris, and these secrets go deeper than she ever imagined.
Alternating between 1930s Europe and the present, The House by the Lake illuminates the destiny of a family caught in the tumult of history.
Buy Links:     
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Amazon UK              Book Depository

Thanks so much, Ella! That's terrific advice. Approaching the job as a professional helps at all points of the journey.
I'm working on that self-belief, but it can sure be tough!!

How about you? How are you aspiring to improve? 

Monday, April 4, 2016


Spring in Northern Ontario is a mysterious thing.
A week before this, the crocuses were free of snow and blooming nicely.
We'll see what happens next!

We've got some serious medical issues with a few family members taking up a lot of our time and energy right now, so I may not be out and about as often as I'd like.

At times like this, I'm glad I write romance - all HEAs are very welcome right now! :)

How's spring treating you so far?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Jacqui Jacoby -- Writing, Submitting, Hoping

Please welcome Jacqui Jacoby back to the blog today!
The letters started coming across the Internet about a week ago. Someone in one of my writer’s loops was depressed. After almost a year of waiting to hear back from an editor who had her manuscript, she received the package in the mail with a form letter rejection. “But I spoke to her,” this writer said. “She said I had passed the first level and it looked good. Now they won’t even tell me why I was rejected.” 
She wasn’t alone. For days the letters arrived in my mailbox. Someone else had a manuscript sitting at Dorchester. It had been two years and she was still waiting. Another had one with an agent. It was almost a year now and she still had no idea where she stood. Letter after letter. Same story, different editors, different agents. Same despair. 
I read each one, feeling their hurt. We have these groups for moral support, to turn to when we need a lift. On those days, though, I read the letters and wondered why we put ourselves through this. What keeps us going? 
It’s not that none of us are talented. It’s not that we don’t put in the time creating characters and worlds and situations. We breathe life into these people, bringing them from our imagination to the printed page. We sweat blood and tears, giving up time with our families, time with our friends, time with the laundry that piles up because an idea just popped into our head and we have to write it now. 
It’s an old joke in my critique group. Burger King is hiring. Burger King is always hiring ... even when publishing houses are turning us down and making us doubt our chances. And for a lot of us, Burger King is paying more than we are currently making in our writing career. 
My own agent DIED, sending me from “almost there” back to square one in the time it takes to place a phone call. Not that I hold it against them. I personally think they had their own problems at the time and I came out ahead in the deal. 
But I have fifty-seven rejections on that same manuscript they loved. This is the same manuscript I was told “would create a whole new sub-genre of kick-butt heroines.” The same manuscript a producer considered for a movie. 
Fifty-seven rejections at the last count. And I stopped counting five years ago, even though I keep sending it out. 
My husband is a civil engineer. In the twenty-two years we’ve been together he has changed jobs four times. Me? I’m still tapping out the words on the computer. 
He doesn’t get it. He’s tried, but the whole idea of resubmitting is so alien to him, he just scratches his head and gives me that blank stare. When he wanted a change, he changed. When he didn’t like the work environment, he went somewhere else. 
When it doesn’t work out for a writer, we read the rejection (maybe), we sigh hard (usually) and then we send it out the door again (always). 
I asked Sue Grafton once what was the one thing she could recommend to a newbie. She didn’t even bat an eye. “When you get that manuscript back in the mail, you send it right back out. Period. No questions asked. No time wasted.” 
But it’s hard. So very hard to keep going to the mailbox and finding those letters of “No Thank You.” 
When do we stop? When do we finally say “Enough. It’s time to try something else,”? 
I have a theory on this. 
Because if we stop submitting, it’s over. 
Yes, there is a chance we can spend our whole lives writing with only our critique group telling us how much they loved our book. There is a chance we will never be standing in an airport concession stand and overhear someone telling their friend she just has to buy this book, our book, because this writer is so damn good the friend won’t be able to put it down until the planes wheels touch the pavement at their destination. 
There is a chance we will write faithfully every day of our lives and read every writers book, every writers magazine, enter every contest, and never get the call that takes us from a wanna-be to author. 
How close are we to getting published? All the way across town? Or right at the door? One phone call away? 
It doesn’t matter. Because the truth of the matter is, no matter how close or how far, if we stop, the chances are over. 
With no book sitting on an agents desk, she won’t be calling us. With no entry in our favorite contest, there won’t be any of our work to be judged, to final, to make it to the winner’s circle on an editor’s desk. 
We submit because we hope. 
If a publishing house is looking for a new book, we want it to be ours. And that is only going to happen if they have the book in the first place. 
Sometimes it will be our friends who get the call. And we will cheer with them even as we silently think “How did they do it? Where do I find that secret that made the difference?” 
We find it in ourselves. In the knowledge that we are doing everything we can. In Chapter One of his book, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, Jack M. Bickham sums it up perfectly. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” 
We are writers and we will continue to write. We will get up every morning, face our computers even when our jobs, our families or some everyday occurrence tries to call us away. We will put our words to the page, put the page in the envelope and the envelope in the mail. 

And we will hope. Always. Period. No questions asked.
Jacqui Jacoby on the web:

           Blog                       Twitter        Facebook

Google + Jacqui Jacoby          Instagram: JacquiJaxJacob      Pinterest: Jacqui Jacoby

Dead Men Seal the Deal
Too-playful-for-his-own-good, Jason Sullivan keeps himself busy working his job, hitting the gym, and dating the right girl for the right amount of time. He loves romance. He loves treating a woman right. Until he has a chance encounter with Taylor Grant. Taylor escaped Georgia to flee a broken relationship. Her convictions to stay single, stay away from men and give up sex altogether will be challenged when the mischievous Jason gets her in his cross hairs. 

Jason’s seductions are not only in his romances, but also in his job. When a meeting with a new client brings Jason's human past forefront, secrets and regrets come crashing down around him. He will turn not only to the new lady in his life, but to his ‘brothers’—Travis, Ian, Quinn and Evan—who will unite as an unstoppable force that not even one greedy, vindictive hag can expect.

Buy Links:

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Love it and totally agree, Jacqui! Writers write. That totally sums it up!
How about you? Where do you stand on the Hope Journey?